South Kitsap Teacher Messing with Kids’ Attitudes Toward Civics

Terri Messing, Cedar Heights Junior High School reading and geography teacher, remembers the thrill of the first presidential campaign she worked on, John F. Kennedy’s. The extent of her activity was wearing a Kennedy campaign button, but, hey, she was only was 5.

Messing, whose father was politically active, passed along to his daughter a love and appreciation for civics that Messing in turn has passed along to her students.

Messing was recently honored as Teacher of the Year by the Washington State Council for Social Studies (WSCSS). She will be recognized at the WSCSS Leadership Retreat, Friday through Sunday, in Chelan, with a plaque, a check for $300, and membership to the National Association for Social Studies.

In January, Messing was named 2010 Washington Legislature’s Civic Educator of the Year, having been nominated by Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard.

Messing this year teaches 7th graders who next year will “loop” with her. As eighth graders, they will take part in a mock court at Kitsap County Courthouse. In past years, this activity has proven instructiven and engaging for students … and not just those who are born crazy for civics. A previous “trial,” put on with the help of Kitsap County Judge Marilyn Paja, focused on a teenage “defendant” accused of manslaughter and drunk driving. Other students played the part of attorneys, witnesses, judge and jury, roles they had to research beforehand.

It’s Messing’s goal to reach those kids who are monumentally bored by the idea of social studies. To get their attention, she tosses the text book … not literally, but instead of doggedly going chapter by chapter, she allows students to determine areas of study (within guidelines of the state’s essential learning standards). She lets them ask the questions … and find the answers. She allows for a lot of hands-on, “kinetic” studies, such as the role playing required for the mock courtroom exercise.

“I do whatever I can to engage students,” Messing said. “A lot of kids don’t understand why they need to study social studies. … I love teaching my kids you don’t have to be gifted to make a difference. It’s just about the average Joes.”

Messing worked for 18 years as a para-educator in Central Kitsap School District before getting her teaching degree. She has taught at Cedar Heights for eight years.

One thought on “South Kitsap Teacher Messing with Kids’ Attitudes Toward Civics

  1. Nice word play on the headline, Chris.

    Thanks to Ms. Messing for nurturing growth, inspiring achievement, and building community!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Before you post, please complete the prompt below.

(Not a trick question) What color is the pink house?